Facebook Cover Image 20% RuleFacebook is on a mission for businesses to create ads that are both beneficial to businesses and Facebook users. They are attempting to achieve this by clamping down on what is and isn’t acceptable in terms of text overlays of images that appear in newsfeed ads.
Specifically they are limiting text overlays to 20% of an image used for ads in newsfeed and cover images, creating a new Text Policy For Ad Images In Newsfeed.

What Are Ads In Newsfeed?

Ads in newsfeed refer to any ads that are viewed via a persons Facebook newsfeed (on a desktop or mobile) such as Promoted Posts, Page Posts Ads and Sponsored Stories. Images included in traditional marketplace ads (i.e. those that appear in the right hand column on Facebook on your desktop) do not appear in user’s newsfeeds and therefore¬†are not included in this rule.

What Is A Facebook Cover Image?

A Facebook cover image is the image that forms a banner across the top of a Facebook Page Timeline. The profile image sits within it on the left and the app/tab images sit below the cover image.

A Picture Tells A Thousand Words

Facebook user sentiment research has demonstrated that photos depicting real life people and events are a great way to deliver messages and engage with your audience, as they evoke greater emotional responses than photo-shopped ads containing large amounts of text. In fact, Facebook research showed that users react negatively to photos containing text from businesses as photos containing text are rare in photos from friends.
As a result, Facebook is suggesting that businesses adopt the following general best practices:

  • Photos should include people and real things – Use photos of real people, situations and objects that people can relate to;
  • Text or text overlay should be minimal (less than 20% of text overlay on an image) – Don’t let the text overpower the image. Instead choose photos that tell a story, making text unnecessary. When using text choose text that speaks in your businesses voice and leverage it in creative ways to invoke emotion and grab attention;
  • Brands logos, campaign slogans and taglines should be used sparingly – Logos should not be the focal point of any photo post and slogans and taglines should be used within the ad copy instead of the image. Logos are included within this 20% limit when they are used by themselves or appear in a product shot that is zoomed in just to promote the logo. In other words, if there is a photo of a product with your logo on it or someone wearing a t-shirt with your logo on it, it does not count towards the 20%. However, if you crop the photo so you only see a closeup of the logo on the product or the shirt, the logo does count toward the 20% limit. So in “theory” the image below should be OK, despite more than 20% of it incorporating a logo. This aspect of the policy seems to be the most inconsistently applied, so whilst in theory it should be accepted, similar images have been rejected for breaching this policy.

Logo more than 20% of image_Facebook policy_how to use photos, logos and taglines on Facebook, Impactive 8 Facebook tips_

  • Keep it simple, avoiding calls to action, price details and contact information in images – Use simple images that portray a message without having to scan photo for minor details or fine print. Instead, place details such as dates, location, terms and conditions, promo codes, etc in the copy above the image;
  • Focus on quality – Use high enough resolution images for clarity; and
  • Let your photos tell a story – Tell your story in a unique way through your own unique images (e.g. a photo of the product being used in real life) rather than a graphic or stock photo of your product.

Text Overlay Enforcement

Facebook is ensuring compliance with this “no more than 20% policy” by using a 5×5 ad image grid system, allowing text to appear in a maximum of five of the 25 boxes within the grid (5/25 = 20%). If an image has text in six or more boxes it will not be eligible for an ad that appears in the newsfeed and will be rejected. However, in the case where only part of a letter appears in a 6th box, according to Facebook’s example, it does not count toward the 20% limit.
Whilst this sounds good in theory and no doubt enables Facebook to assess images using an algorithm, the system is actually over-simplistic, highly inaccurate, confusing and seemingly not consistently enforced, frustrating many businesses using Facebook advertising as a result. The downfall appears to be in the accuracy of the grid. Ideally Facebook should be using a pixel based system or at least a smaller grid (e.g. 50 squares) to produce far more accurate results.

Does This Image Comply?

So what happens when your image doesn’t fit within the grid perfectly? Does this comply? Some would argue that only three boxes contain text, with an additional seven boxes containing only part words/letters. However, I would assume that Facebook would count this as ten. Unfortunately the only way to know for certain is to submit it and see whether or not that it complies. It would be great if Facebook could produce a tool that you could submit your image to in advance of using it for advertising purposes so that you could check compliance first. This would be particularly useful if you are only including the image to support a post that you plan to promote.

Does this image comply with Facebook's 20% text rule?

What Does This Mean For Small Businesses?

Most businesses are probably operating blissfully unaware of this change and won’t realise until their ad is rejected. This can be a painful pill to swallow, as all that hard work that went into creating the perfect image becomes wasted time. The truth is that most small businesses do not have the resources, whether that be time, money or expertise, to be this pedantic about image text sizes in their Facebook Ads. This is also a kick in the teeth for those businesses that do not have readily available access to lots of high quality engaging images that they own the rights to and have in the past relied on using text overlays as a way of generating engaging visual content instead.
The best advice I can have for you is to use text sparingly in images from this point forward to save yourself the heartache and when you do, make sure you apply a 5×5 grid to the image to check that it complies.
Have you had any issues with the new text policy for ad images in newsfeed? Do you have any tips to share? If so, please leave your comments below.